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New Leopard Frog Species Discovered in Virginia

October 14, 2015



For those of you who love leopard frogs, there is some cool news as a new species of leopard frog that apparently has been sitting right under our noses has been discovered in Virginia. That is right, the Atlantic Coast leopard frog (Rana kauffeldi) is a new species. 

atlantic coast leopard frog and southern leopard frog

J.D. Kleopfer

Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog on the left and Southern Leopard Frog on the right.

The frog may have been mistaken for the Southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala) in the past, but herpetologist John Kleopfer and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have identified the frog as a new species based on genetic testing and its vocalization.

There are several visual cues that herp lovers can see that differentiates the two species. First of which is the snout. It is rounder on the Atlantic Coast leopard frog than the snout on the Southern leopard frog. The pattern of the Rana kauffeldi is more muted as well and the white spot on the center of the ear drum is duller. The frog is also more of a habitat specialist than the Southern leopard frog, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It lives in forested riparian wetlands and becomes terrestrial in late summer when the wetlands dry out. The vocalization of the frog is similar to that of the wood frog. The frog is also breeding with the Southern leopard frog, which is creating hybridization that may create identification issues.

Atlantic coast leopard frog

J.D. KLEOPFER

The Atlantic coast leopard frog lives in forested riparian wetlands and becomes terrestrial in late summer when the wetlands dry out.

"When we started looking at the call, the bio-acoustics of it, then we started to take a closer look at the morphology of the frog. Finally we looked at the genetics. And when all three of those aligned together, we said yeah this a separate species completely," Kleopfer told WVIR.

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